This week, America’s prestigious Wall Street Journal posted a debate entitled “Should the World Increase Its Reliance on Nuclear Energy”. The principles in the debate are Mark Lynas, at Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment, and Peter Bradford, adjunct professor at Vermont’s Law School and former NRC commissioner. Lynas took the “Yes” position and Bradford the “No”. While Lynas was careful to present his views logically and rationally, Bradford resorted to trite, worn-out, largely-rhetorical antinuclear arguments that tainted the debate itself, and even resorted to outright fabrication.
Bradford argued that nuclear energy is too dangerous to be considered by incorporating three powerful persuasive tools used incessantly by those of the antinuclear persuasion – fear, uncertainty and doubt. His initial statement, “The full impact on people’s health from last year’s disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan won’t be known for years, if ever,” drips with his belief that we do not know the negative health effects of low level radiation exposure. The foundation of this belief is an exercise in twisted logic – he considers all radiation to be a potent carcinogen, thus it must be dangerous at all doses. He can’t bring himself to accept that the relative risk of low level exposure is just as miniscule as the exposures themselves, if they are risky at all. He steeps this belief in a clear act of certainty; he is certain that all levels of radiation exposure are carcinogenic and that the negative health effects of radiation will eventually be proven. He in essence guarantees it! This is the same vacuous, non-substantial rhetoric that has been used by all hardened antinuclear proponents for more than three decades.
A second slanted statement follows suit, “Thousands of Japanese may not return to their contaminated hometowns for many years, if ever”, once again using the uncertainty and doubt motif as his definitive tool. We should keep in mind that the Japanese government has adopted the most restrictive contamination standards in the world, generally ten times less than any other nation and based entirely on their attempt to soothe the wide-spread fear of radiation that has swept Japan. If any other national standard would be used for repopulation of the evacuated Japanese communities, tens of thousands would already be safely back in their homes. Using realistic, non-politically motivated standards and a concerted decontamination effort in the more-contaminated areas, everyone outside of Futaba and Okuma Towns (adjacent to Fukushima Daiichi) would be home in no more than ten years. But, Bradford neglects to point these things out. He assumes the worst for purely persuasive purposes on a world’s audience that is largely naïve of what is really happening in Japan.
However, perhaps the most misleading phrase culminates both statements; “If ever”! This is an obvious ploy to (first) make people think we will never know the biological effects of low level radiation exposure, and (second) that the evacuees of Fukushima will never be allowed to go home. In fact, he chooses what he says very carefully to make it seem that both assumptions will necessarily manifest. It makes no difference that a small mountain of conclusive evidence now exists showing that low level radiation exposure is not dangerous, and further a significant cache of evidence exists showing that low level exposures are actually good for you! Bradford wants the reader to believe the reason evacuees can’t go home is radiation and that Japan’s politics has nothing to do with it.
The above is but the tip of the iceberg. Bradford subsequently resorts to exaggeration and fabrication. First, Tepco is not the world’s largest publicly (privately) owned electric utility; it’s actually E.ON AG in Germany. In fact, Tepco ranks sixth in the world, per Forbes Magazine. Tepco is big…but not THAT big. He also says the Japanese government has collapsed due to Fukushima, but the truth is that Naoto Kan’s regime was tottering on the brink of failure before the tsunami ever struck the Tohoku coast. Plus, the Kan’s party, the DPJ, has remained in control of the government all along. Japan’s government has not “fallen” and Kan’s demise was inevitable, exacerbated by inadequate tsunami recovery efforts, a plummeting Yen, a Kan-created energy-infrastructure crisis, and his using Fukushima to divert attention away from all of the above. Lastly, Japan’s nuclear regulatory system before Fukushima was never considered to have been a world leader. In fact, it had come under serious international criticism for not protecting against the rare-but-not-impossible accident precursors for more than a decade prior to 3/11/11.
Not only has Bradford resorted to time-worn antinuclear rhetoric to try and prove his “too dangerous” conclusion, but his “facts” are making his nose grow.